The smile adorning Tommy Togiai’s face as he talked about the call Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry had just made to tell him they were drafting him told the whole story.
No, he doesn’t have any regrets about leaving Ohio State after one year as a starter. No, the wait until the No. 132 overall pick in the fourth round didn’t change his mind.
“I always had a feeling I was going to go later in the rounds, but didn't know yet exactly where,” Togiai said on Saturday. “But that's the kind of risk I took going into this year. I was betting on myself, and it worked out for the best. Whatever decision I decided on was the best decision for me and I'm sticking with that. I know this is the best decision for me and I'm excited to get to work.”
Togiai saw the pre-draft projections and guessed he would be picked somewhere between the second and fourth rounds. He was right, though it ended up on the lower side of that spectrum.
Had Togiai returned for a fourth year as a Buckeye and second year as a starting nose tackle, his draft stock potentially could have increased. Another year with Larry Johnson does wonders for some defensive linemen. Togiai, who has seen first-hand guys like DaVon Hamilton made late-career rises, understands that as well as anybody. And he knows he’s only getting better. He says he “definitely” thinks his best football is ahead of him, believes he has a “really high” ceiling and possesses “through-the-roof” potential.
But Togiai, who admits “obviously everybody would want to go earlier” in the draft than he did, simply didn’t want to wait to make the jump to the next level.
“Making this decision to come out was really just my health – I was healthy coming out of this season,” Togiai said. “Didn't know what next season would look like risking injury, and then with the pandemic still around and everything. Just kind of that risk factor also was kind of the reason I came out early.”
Tommy Togiai meets with the media live: https://t.co/sHCIU3lVKB— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 1, 2021
Togiai opted to go pro just one week after experiencing the game getting taken away from him. He tested positive for COVID-19 in early January, “cried my eyes out” and thus had to sit out the national championship. Otherwise fully healthy, he made what he previously deemed “probably the hardest decision” of his life up to this point seven days after watching his teammates fall to Alabama and entered the NFL draft.
Four months later, he knows where he’s heading next: Cleveland, Ohio.
The 21-year-old defensive tackle who racked up 49 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks across his three seasons in Columbus will move two hours north on Interstate-71 to join a surging Browns team led on the defensive line by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
“When I first made that decision to go to Ohio State and there was two other NFL teams in Ohio, there was a possibility of that, but I never knew that this would obviously happen,” Togiai said. “I love Ohio with my years in Columbus, and I'm excited to just get back to Ohio, get back to work.”